These pretty, delicate shell-shaped cakes are just gorgeous to look at, and even more wonderful to eat! I saw contestants in episode nine of the 9th series of The Great British Bake Off bake these little beauties, and I really fancied having a go myself. Do you remember Kim-Joy’s orange bunny madeleines? Just amazing! I must admit, it did seem slightly excessive purchasing a tin especially for this little cake, but it was definitely worth it. I followed Mary Berry’s French Madeleines recipe on page 151 of Mary Berry 100 Cakes and Bakes.
Making the French Madeleines
Step 1: Gather the ingredients
First, I gathered together all of the ingredients. Here’s what I used:
- 150 g unsalted butter
- 3 large eggs
- 150 g caster sugar
- 150 g self-raising flour
- 1/2 level tsp baking powder
- Zest of 1 lemon
To bake the cakes in their characteristic shell shape, you will need to use a madeleine tray. I bought a very good non-stick, 12-hole Lakeland madeleine tray. I really recommend this tray, as the cakes came out so easily from the tin. This recipe makes 30 cakes (athough I only got 26 out of it), so you will need to bake the cakes in batches.
Step 2: Grease and dust madeleine tray
I greased the tray using some butter on a piece of kitchen paper. Then I dusted the tray with some self-raising flour and turned it upside down to shake off the excess. This ensures that the cakes will come out of the tin easily once baked. After doing a little research online, I was a bit apprehensive about dusting the tin with flour, as somebody wrote that the flour burnt on the bottom of their madeleines. But I needn’t have worried; they turned out really well! In fact, I later learnt that the flour dusting actually helps to give the madeleines their characteristic crispy edge.
Step 3: Melt butter
I melted the butter in a pan, stirring it with a wooden spoon. I really do love the smell of melting butter! The recipe says ‘allow to cool slightly’. I have to say, I did spend quite some time wondering what was meant by ‘slightly’, but in the end it was academic as I left it for as long as it took me to get to the stage where I needed it, and by then it had definitely cooled down enough!
Step 4: Whisk eggs and sugar
I put the eggs and the caster sugar in a bowl and used my electric hand mixer to whisk them together until the mixture was pale and thick. I didn’t time how long I did this for, but I would say for at least 8 minutes, until I started to see ribbons when I lifted the whisk:
Step 5: Sift in half the flour
The recipe says to sift in ‘half the flour’, so me being me, I decided I would weigh the flour into two equal parts (I’m sure you don’t need to be quite as pernickety as that!).
Step 6: Add baking powder and lemon zest and fold in
Having sifted in half of the flour, I then added the baking powder and lemon zest and folded it all in together gently (being careful not to knock the air out of the egg and sugar mixture I just whisked):
Step 7: Pour in half the melted butter and fold in
Next, I poured in half of the melted butter (I didn’t measure this haha) around the edge of the bowl and folded it in:
Step 8: Repeat process
I repeated the process with the remaining flour and butter; I sifted the flour into the bowl and folded it in gently:
Then I poured in the remaining butter around the edge of the bowl and folded it in:
Step 9: Turn on oven
I turned on the fan oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Step 10: Spoon mixture into tray
The recipe says to spoon the mixture into the tray so that it is ‘just level in the moulds’. Spooning the mixture was a little bit of a nightmare – there is no way that you can get it level in the mould without playing around with it. A piping bag would have made this job a bit easier. When I was doing my research online, someone said that they just dollop the mixture in and leave it, as it will spread of its own accord. But the perfectionist in me didn’t like that idea, so I faffed about levelling the mixture with a palette knife!
Step 11: Bake madeleines
The recipe says to ‘bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until well risen, golden and springy to the touch.’ I had to bake three separate batches and I did that Bake Off thing where the contestants sit on the floor gazing into the oven – it’s really quite soothing watching things bake! As I have a hot oven, I set the timer for 8 minutes. The two rows on the right of the oven were baking quicker than those on the left, so after 6 minutes had passed I turned my tray around and gave it another 2 minutes.
Step 12: Leave to cool
After baking, I left the madeleines to cool down on a wire rack:
Apart from being a bit on the dark side, I was quite pleased with this first attempt! They had risen, they had nice definition around the edge and you could see the lines of the shell! They popped out of the tray with no problems whatsoever and there were no burnt bottoms (like some people complained about when using butter and flour to dust the tray).
Step 13: Repeat process
At this point I turned off the oven to save energy, as I knew preparing the second batch was going to take ages (me and that palette knife…). I cleaned out the crumbs from the tins, then greased and floured the tray before starting the elaborate spooning-in-the-mixture-then-levelling-off-with-a-palette-knife process again 😉 I turned on the oven before I started spooning row 3…:
I put the second batch in for 8 minutes (this time I didn’t need to turn the tray, as I positioned it further to the right of the oven which seemed to help). I sat on the floor and watched. It’s weird what you notice when you stare at something baking. The middle of the madeleines dip, then suddenly they rise creating a pretty impressive hump! This didn’t happen during the first batch so I thought something had gone wrong, but this is actually desirable as it enables your madeleines to stand up proudly!
I really liked how this batch came out – not as dark as the first batch, just a really nice golden colour. And look at how they prop themselves up nicely! Some people say that you need to put the batter in the fridge before baking in order to obtain the humps, but happily these rose of their own accord. Although it is odd how the first batch didn’t rise as much as these – the only difference is the length of time the batter was sat out before baking.
My third batch only consisted of two madeleines. I put them in for 8 minutes, but in retrospect this was probably too long as they came out really dark. I guess the fact that there was only two of them meant they didn’t need as long. Anyway, despite the dark colour, they rose magnificently! And they also look a tad obscene!:
I became quite fascinated with the bumps / humps (whatever you like to call them). Here’s a picture where you can see batch one on the left and batch two on the right. You can see how the bumps on the second batch lift the madeleines:
Here are three pictures comparing the top, side and bottom of batch one, two and three (batches in order from left to right). I think I prefer batch 2 for its colour and batch 3 for its bump:
Step 14: Sieve icing sugar on top
Mary Berry didn’t say to do this in her recipe, but I decided to sieve icing sugar on top:
Here are a few more pictures, with some strategic lemon slices placed next to them for effect ;-):
These French madeleines are really tasty! I will definitely make them again. They are quite dry in texture and the sponge is quite dense, but they have a lovely lemony sweet taste. I think these would also be really nice made with orange zest instead of the lemon zest, and I think you could have a lot of fun decorating them with icing! I don’t drink tea, but I imagine they would be a nice accompaniment. Next time I will have to eat them as soon as they come out of the oven – some people say they are best eaten in the first five minutes that they are taken out! Naturally, I had to take pictures first, so I felt bad that I denied Will the pleasure of freshly baked madeleines (bad wife)! The bonus, however, is that we had too many to eat in one sitting, so we have fourteen more of these in the freezer for another time! Yay! Have you baked these beauties before?